Catfishing is one of the most mentally and emotionally destructive forms of abuse and fraud perpetrated on the web. It happens when someone on the internet fools a person into thinking they are someone else. Not just anyone else, but an actual romantic partner. It’s internet dating twisted into something horrible and can either cost you your mental health, money or both.
The bottom line is that no one wants to be catfished, but luckily there are a few common signs that can help you avoid this horrible online fate. Here’s how to know if you are being catfished.
They Come After You Hard
If you get a Twitter DM, Facebook message or other unsolicited communication from someone saying how “beautiful” or “handsome” you are then you should have big red flags right off the bat.
Some catfishes (catfishers?) wait for people to take the bait, but many pursue their targets aggressively. This is the most obvious warning of a catfish and unless you’re a total narcissist it’s easy to reject such ham-handed advances.
They Are Interested in Everything
These fake profiles usually list an enormous range of interests. Apparently, the point of this is to get picked up through keywords. If the account of the person you’re interacting with seems to be that of a polymath savant, you might want to be a little suspicious. Sure, plenty of people inflate their abilities and interests, but it could be a fake person.
One good trick is to take your “shared” interests and grill them a little on those topics. If it’s obvious that the person on the other end doesn’t actually know anything about the topic you’re dealing with a liar at best and a catfish at worst.
One of the most prominent signs that someone might be a catfish is that something is wrong with their photos. The first thing you should do is run a reverse image search on all the photos on that person’s profile. Make sure that they don’t come from a stock photography site or have been stolen from another person’s profile.
Even if there are no hits from a reverse image search, there are other warning signs you can use as well. For example, are all their photos taken in such a way that you can’t really make our their face? Do they all look professionally shot? Compare them to the profiles of most other people and see if they look “off.” You can always ask the person to send a photo of them holding a photo of you or something similar. If you really want to be sure the person in the picture is involved.
No Live Communications
For the most part, a catfish will never want to communicate with you via Skype, a telephone or any other live communication. Obviously, this is because the person or team of people running the scams have multiple personas and don’t want you to identify them after you are defrauded.
If the person is always coming up with excuses when you want to do something like Skype, you’re probably being catfished.
They Want Money
Asking for money from someone who you’ve only ever met online is such a callous act. No one should really fall for it. Yet the entire point of catfishing is either to mess with you as a form of bullying or to steal from you. In both cases, a skilled catfish will create an emotional connection between their persona and their target. Once you care about someone, you are much less likely to think critically about a request for cash.
No matter how much they push a story like a sick cat or a lost job, do not give any money to this person. That’s a good rule even if the person is NOT a catfish. An online-only relationship does not warrant this level of familiarity.
They Have Too Many Excuses for Not Meeting
If the person should be in a position to meet with you on paper, but always seems to have a reason this can’t happen, be on your guard. It’s usually something like a job where they have to travel all the time. It can be some other thing that makes meetings impossible. If you’ve reached the point where you want to meet before taking things further, then only take things further if a meeting can actually happen.
They Are Too Perfect
Did this person go to a fancy college? Do they play sports? Play instruments? Volunteer at homeless shelters? Are they physically perfect? In other words, does this person seem like someone who is simply too good to be real? Apparently, there are people in the world who really have and do it all, but statistically, it’s not very likely. If they also somehow don’t have a job (so you can’t confirm they work there) or need money from you despite being so amazing, it’s time to walk the other way.
But Their English Sucks
If the person’s profile implies that they are a native English (or whatever your language) speaker, but their actual communication is broken and clearly second-language or worse in quality, you have a problem.
It’s Going Too Fast!
The last major sign is one you can only pick up when taking all your interactions with this person into account. Are they always pushing things to be more serious? Are they too quick to declare how much they care for you, a person who they have never met? If you feel things are moving way too fast and the other person is pushing, then you might also have a catfish on your hands.
What Can’t Be Cured...
...must be endured. Let’s face it. Online dating is here to stay, and overall it’s actually good for us overall. You are much more likely to meet your match thanks to the power of the internet. Rather than the inefficient old-school dating scene. In that context, it’s inevitable that some jerks are going to use online dating as a way to target people. Just for their own sick reasons.
That’s why you should take care and know how about internet dating safety. On top of this, you should avoid having your IP traced and use a VPN service such as ExpressVPN to protect your privacy when venturing out, looking for love. Keep a skeptical mind and arm yourself with knowledge. That way you can find Mr. or Ms. Right without running into all the wrong people.